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2019 mayor's race

Leirion Gaylor Baird, Jeff Kirkpatrick, Cyndi Lamm, Krystal Gabel and Rene Solc are running for Lincoln mayor.

Tell your story in six words was the challenge to candidates for Lincoln mayor as part of a Leadership Lincoln forum Wednesday.

The four candidates who participated also answered meatier questions, including what they would do with the empty Pershing Center and if they think the city should legalize marijuana.

But first they gave their six-word description.

“Struggle, giving back, lead with heart,” said Cyndi Lamm, a current city councilwoman.

“Simple country boy, lawyer, future mayor,” said Jeff Kirkpatrick, the city attorney on leave to run for office.

“Honestly, Lincoln should be for everyone, “said Leirion Gaylor Baird, a City Council member.

“Leadership, communication, get along, husband, grandpa” said Rene Solc, a local concrete construction business owner.

A fifth candidate, Krystal Gabel, was invited but declined to participate.

Here are several questions and candidate answers from the forum:

What are your plans for Pershing Center?

Kirkpatrick: He'd like to tear down Pershing (the city's old auditorium) and put a library there, a beautiful library, with meeting rooms and other amenities. There would be half a block remaining for other uses.

Lamm: Pershing, with available below-ground parking, would make a great place for youth sports, perhaps a skating rink, since Lincoln is home to USA Roller Sports. She would work with private partners to develop a plan.

Solc: He believes both youth sports and a library are good ideas. Solc said his grandson likes to play soccer and it is difficult to find indoor access.

Gaylor Baird: She pointed to the downtown master plan, which suggests one use would be a library, with the other space perhaps used for housing or state offices. She would work with the library board to find the right place for a downtown library. The Pershing plan would have to have enough financing to make it feasible.

Would candidates support legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, and using revenue to help relieve property taxes?

Gaylor Baird: This is an issue that voters may be able to weigh in on if a proposed petition drive to put the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot is successful, she said. And, if the measure passes, “I would welcome that revenue."

Kirkpatrick: The city, as a practical matter, can’t legalize marijuana. He has not seen horror stories from other states where marijuana has been legalized, and he has seen how Colorado has used revenue from cannabis for streets and libraries.

The only issue he has, as a prosecutor, is being able to prosecute for impaired driving. Prosecuting for drugs is a different challenge than for drunk driving, he said. But "if that is the only challenge we have to overcome, I don’t think it is a huge one,” he said.

Solc: He is “kind of against it,” based in part on some of the consequences of its use he's seen. But he does have a good friend with leukemia, and the cannabis products from Colorado help her out and are much cheaper than medications from a doctor.

Solc said he would let the people decide how to handle marijuana.

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Lamm: Lamm, who is part of the autism family network, said she has heard examples of CBD oil (made from cannabis) changing the lives of children. But there is not yet any science behind the anecdotal evidence, she said:

“The short answer is, I don’t know.” She is waiting to see what happens with this issue, particularly at the federal level.

How can the city encourage small-business growth, including incentives or tax breaks?

Lamm: The city needs to re-examine zoning polices that add cost and time to developments involving small business. Additionally, Lincoln needs to get more flights into its airport and work to establish a convention center. 

Gaylor Baird: The city should continue working with a Chamber of Commerce program where larger businesses mentor small businesses. The city needs to continue to make Lincoln a more attractive place for millennials, including its bike trails and the music scene. Lincoln continues to make top-10 lists, and the city should bang the drum and let people know.

Solc: Getting a small business started is hard and finding parking in Lincoln for small businesses is getting more difficult.

Kirkpatrick: The city doesn't have the money for an expensive incentive program, but needs to do better with workforce development and affordable housing. The city should create a brand that lets young people know this is an exciting place to live, including developing a festival that includes art, music and theater and draws people to Lincoln over a couple of weeks. 

Q&A with Lincoln mayoral candidates

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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